The ACT Government should have already planned for an all-year aquatic centre in Woden to replace the ageing and ailing Phillip pool, according to the Woden Valley Community Council.
The open-air, 50-metre Phillip pool has been out of action since 2021 due to ongoing maintenance issues and now the site is likely to go under apartments after being sold to property developer Geocon.
Under the current lease, Geocon will need to continue operating the pool and the ice skating rink, but the draft Territory Plan allows redevelopment of the site with the condition that a public 25-metre pool, smaller warm water pool and toddlers pool be provided.
But WVCC president Fiona Carrick said “we can do better than a 25-metre pool in a huge apartment complex”.
“The government should have had a plan, whether the plan was to buy the existing site or develop another site, to provide aquatic services to the community and not leave everything to the private sector.”
Ms Carrick said Woden would be home to thousands of new residents in coming years, as well as being a regular destination for 6500 CIT students, and a 25-metre pool would not cut it.
It would not be big enough to cater for the demand from lap and recreational swimmers, schools and other users, or deep enough for water polo.
She said many developments had their own small private pools but these did not create a greater sense of community.
“Densification also needs to cater to the social needs of the community that’s going to live there,” Ms Carrick said.
She said Woden was centrally located with good public transport links from across Canberra’s south but it had lost social and sporting facilities over the years, forcing people into their cars to access facilities.
Woden’s recreation precinct had lost its basketball stadium, pitch ‘n’ putt, bowling greens, tennis courts and now the pool and ice rink are at risk.
It was about putting the right infrastructure in the right place.
“If you want people to be active you need to make it convenient for them and put the public facilities where they can get to them by public transport,” Ms Carrick said.
“Woden is a no-brainer for where community facilities should be, but they’re just gone.”
Ms Carrick dismissed suggestions that the new Stromlo Leisure Centre in Wright also catered for Woden.
The town centres were designed to provide their own social infrastructure and be destinations that support small business, but she feared Woden was at risk of becoming a big transit hub.
Sport and Recreation Minister Yvette Berry said that while the government was open to ideas from the community, the government did not have any plans at this stage for an aquatic centre in Woden.
She said Geocon had publicly committed to getting the pool up and running again and operating the ice rink but she would know more about its long-term intentions for the site after meeting with the company.
The government has decided to back a new ice sports facility in Tuggeranong, committing $16 million to the project.